December 2017

Exquisitely Brilliant: Get an education in jewelry at Quinn’s Diamond Jewelers

Author: Barry Kaufman | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Among the glittering stones that line the cases of Quinn’s Diamond Jewelers, set among a tantalizing array of bracelets, necklaces, brooches and watches, you’ll find one sparkle that puts them all to shame. It’s the twinkle in Darrel Quinn’s eye when he launches into a story. It’s a brilliance that would put the rarest of D-graded diamonds to shame, and it’s one that exemplifies this colorful character.

“I got a new brain last year,” he began, that twinkle telegraphing the punchline to come. “They wanted $5,000 for a woman’s brain and $50,000 for a man’s brain. I asked why there was such a price difference; they told me that the man’s brain hadn’t been used.”

Chuckle or groan, as long as you’re enjoying yourself, Quinn is just fine with that. “I like to entertain. If I get some sourpuss in here, they have to be smiling when they leave,” he said.

The Darrel Quinn show is the latest act in a career going back to when Quinn was an eighth grader fixing watches in his father’s jewelry store. Part of a large family of jewelers that extends to five Quinn’s locations in Illinois and Iowa, he counts among his family uncles, cousins, brothers and a son who are all in the jewelry business.

And while Darrel Quinn may have fallen into the family business by default, he fell into it with an enormous amount of passion and skill. When he branched out on his own, opening his first store in 1977 with his high-school sweetheart turned wife Nancy, it was at his father’s insistence that Darrel become certified. In everything. In addition to a business degree from University of Illinois, he became certified in horology (that being the study of time), jewelry repair, diamond grading and a slew of other subjects strewn across the certificates on his wall. Opposite his are Nancy’s own impressive wall of certifications. “I’m now the only certified registered jeweler on the island,” he said.

That first store opened by the couple became three, which established them as go-to jewelers in the Midwest, with Darrel serving as a consultant for DeBeers and utilizing his larger-than-life personality in TV commercials. Along the way, they established a relationship with the largest diamond brokers in the world, which continues to this day, allowing Quinn’s Hilton Head Island location to offer up stunning diamonds at affordable prices.

So how did the first Quinn’s location outside of the Midwest wind up on Hilton Head Island?

“We retired 10 years ago,” Darrel said. “After four months, my wife couldn’t stand it.”

“I just enjoy being around people,” said Nancy. “You can only clean so much, and I don’t golf. I wasn’t ready to retire yet.”

Thus began the couple’s second act, creating a southern outpost of the family business on the island. Between Darrel’s bombastic personality and the official greeting committee of their poodles Kody and Kasey, they fit right in with our island’s laid-back knack for the finer things in life.

But it’s not all about enjoying the show. Behind the jokes and the stories is a deep well of experience and knowledge, crafted from 50 years in the jewelry business. And when you stop in, you might just get a chance to share in that knowledge.

“I want a person to come in here and get the Quinn’s experience,” Darrel said. “They’ll learn and they’ll know what questions to ask.”

You think you know the 4 Cs? You might be surprised to learn that there are closer to 18 factors that go into a diamond’s worth. You think that GIA grading your diamond received is accurate? Turns out there are GIAs all over the world, with…varying standards. Ever curious why a jeweler might have called your old junk diamond “FS” grade? “It stands for frozen spit,” said Darrel with a chuckle.

Education is a facet of the Quinn’s experience, but there are many. In an era where department stores and the Internet draw in the uneducated diamond buyer with promises of deep discounts, Darrel and Nancy know that their biggest draw is their knowledge and service.

“When you’re spending that kind of money, you want to know and trust the person you’re buying from,” Nancy said.
One cautionary tale they’ll share is that of a young man who entered their Illinois store one day looking to have a diamond appraised. He’d purchased it off the Internet for $11,000, sent via wire transfer.

“Darrel told him, ‘It’s one of the best CZs (cubic zirconia) I’ve ever seen. He thought the boy was going to die on the spot,” Nancy said. When the young man attempted to confront the jeweler who’d sold him the five-figure fake, they had vanished.

“When you buy from us, we’re going to service it and take care of it. You become a customer of mine, I’m going to take care of you come hell or high water,” Darrel said.

That holds true whether you’re stopping in for a $15 watch battery replacement; choosing from the lavish selection of jewelry from Lafonn, Piyaro, Kovel Collection or Southern Gates in the cases; or buying a six-figure stone for a custom-designed piece of jewelry. No matter, you’re getting the same attention and you’re getting access to that deep well of knowledge and creativity.

“And jewelry is creative,” Darrel said. “We have people in here that see what we’ve made and they are close to tears.”
A stack of photos shows off some of Darrel’s handiwork, from custom wedding bands embedded with black diamonds to a colorful opal pendant that he created based on a nine-year-old’s sketches.

This old-school knowledge is married with some decidedly new-school technology at Quinn’s Diamond Jewelers, like the massive touchscreen in one corner that allows you to build your custom ring with a few taps and swipes.
“This is the latest in technology right here,” Darrel said, cruising through menus of shanks, heads and prongs rendered in three glittering dimensions. Within seconds, he’d created a 3-D beauty of an engagement ring, ready to zip over to your smartphone where you can customize it to your heart’s content. It’s a far cry from the technology young Darrel employed fixing watches in his dad’s shop.

And while the technology is new, it’s the brilliance and experience behind it that sets Quinn’s Diamond Jewelers apart.

Quinn’s Diamond Jewelers is located at 1000 William Hilton Parkway, in Village at Wexford. To learn more, call (843) DIAMOND.

Let Us Know what You Think ...

commenting closed for this article

Social Bookmarks